29 December 2011

Ahhhhh ..... !

That's just how I feel ..... ahhhh! The Christmas holiday has passed and our family had a fun few days of exchanging gifts, taking walks, playing games, doing a bit of poking around the backroads of Vermont, cooking together, and sitting by the evening fire chatting or reading quietly. We watched some classic movies, had martinis and laughed over the kitchen countertop, played with Christmas ribbons with the family cat and tried (in vain) to keep the Corgis quiet and calm. It's a wonder the Christmas tree is still standing, considering all the running and barking that Mimi (frisky Corgi) and Penny (equally frisky kitty) have done! Pete (gentleman Corgi) and Opey (resident Queen Cat) just sit and quietly watch their antics.

23 December 2011

Sweet Potatoes and Creole Spice

This is the most colorful meal that I've made in a long time ... and it was just perfect for the Solstice. It was dark and dreary here all day Wednesday ... at 4PM, I looked out the window to rain and a heavy fog rolling and roiling around the back yard ... it was all very damp and eerie. Even the dogs were spooked when they ran out after dinner for their evening dash. I was much happier sitting by the warm woodstove knitting on a wintertime project with warm spicy meatloaf and mashed sweet potatoes warming me from the inside.

Winter Solstice ... there WAS no available light!


21 December 2011

Susan's Speculaas

I have been waiting to make these cookies since my blogging friend, Lizzy sent me a box of Dutch baking and snacking goodies this past Spring! I used the bottle of speculoos spice that she sent today and made the first of a few different types of cookies. They will be part of a cookie platter for our Christmas Eve celebration. With gluwein or coffee or hot tea, these little 'dunkers' will be so delicious!

20 December 2011

Just a Little Gift ...

Hint :  Right click the link, open it, and enjoy!

May your winter be filled with beauty  ...

May you find small reminders of Spring's renewal amongst the bluster ...

May you be warm and sheltered ...

May you have enough ...

... and share the extra.

And whatever your faith ...

...may you know love and charity.

Merry Christmas !

18 December 2011

Multigrain Mini-Muffins with Orange Honey Neufchatel

Merry Christmas, folks!

Yes Virginia, the holidays can be relatively healthy for snackers. These muffins are one little drop in the bucket of healthy party fare. They are not as sweet as a regular muffin and have a higher fiber content than the usual. I've added grated apple and a handful of dried cranberries too. My nod to sweetness is a Neufchatel cheese whip with a couple tablespoons of orange juice, orange zest, and a couple tablespoons of orange blossom honey. Piped onto the top, these muffins look so sweet and will be gracing our Christmas morning brunch table. This batch, however, will be served to friends at a church function.

Multigrain Muffins with Whipped Orange Honey Neufchatel

17 December 2011

Homemade Kahlua ...

This is such an easy and fun gift to give at holiday time! I've made it a few times over the years because it lasts for a good while ... unless you are a lover of coffee and Kahlua with whipped cream or Black and White Russians! We go for only an occasional souped up coffee as a post dinner dessert drink. Black Russians lost their allure for me after one particular night of severe overindulgence. Hence, I use Kahlua in a few dessert and ice cream recipes. A bottle of this stuff lasts a long time in our house, but when you need a special zing ... it does the trick!

16 December 2011

50 Woman Game-Changers ... Dessert and Anne-Sophie Pic

“My cuisine, I would say, is simple and sophisticated. I attach supreme importance to getting the flavours just right.”
                                                                                                - Anne-Sophie Pic

Sometimes, one must leave the realm and explore the world before returning home to make one’s mark. I think Anne-Sophie Pic might agree with this statement. She left her family’s strong culinary environment to study business and design, worked in various design and merchandising fields, and then returned to her family roots and placed her energies into becoming a world-class chef. She is chef and co-owner with her husband of Maison Pic in Valence, France and a newer venue in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Following in the footsteps of her grandfather and father … both much-lauded chefs, she has busted the glass ceiling of the French Michelin judging system … being the first woman to earn a three-star chef rating by the stodgy – yet esteemed organization.

Her food sensibilities tend toward limited numbers of ingredients, but attention to the details of bringing each ingredient’s flavour to its perfect level in whatever dish she creates.

14 December 2011

Got Me a Hambone ... !

Got me a hambone ... gonna make soup and cornbread!

Yessirree! I got me a hambone ... leftovers from this past weekend's Yankee Swap and birthday celebration at the Lindquist family farmstead. Normally, I would make a split pea and ham soup because this cook loves that kind of soup, but alas ... it is the one soup that I can't get my family to eat. Sprout Kate and I are the only takers, so I've given up the fight. Since I have to please Silent Bob's palate, I am making, instead, Bean Soup with Ham and Bacon.

I have fond memories of big bowls of Campbell's Bean with Bacon soup ... processed heaven right from the can with heaps of crackers for breaking into the broth. It was always a favorite for winter afternoons when the Miller kids would crowd into the kitchen after skiing or sledding. Mom used to get these over-sized 'family-size' cans and have a big pan simmering on the stove ... steamy and thick. My homemade version is much better, but the memory of the old style remains a happy one! All we need is some real snow ... someone say a prayer, huh ?

12 December 2011

Cranberry Nut Bread

When the winter holidays roll around, I always dig into the pile of family recipes that have been 'tried and true' over the years. One of the usual suspects is this cranberry nut bread. My mother made it every year with big old chunks of walnuts and fresh cranberries washed and cut in half. This quick bread is not an overly sweet affair ... it has fresh squeezed orange juice and orange zest that add to the tang of the cranberries and a mere three-quarters cup sugar. It is a bulky bread that slices and toasts beautifully and holds up to a slather of soft melting butter ... yum! We always have it with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning.

07 December 2011

Pork Tenderloin on a Bed of Kale with Roasted Sweet Potatoes on the Side

Why have I never shared these roasted  'taters' with you guys? These are so very easy and savory ... not your usual smushed sweet potatoes and not super crisp and fatty sweet potato fries ... instead, thick half rounds with a bit of olive oil to keep the crisp outsides moist and to allow for crunchy crisp nuggets of garlic, thyme, and red pepper to flavour them.

06 December 2011


Today was such a grey day that I needed to warm the place up a bit with a home-y smell. I baked bread ... oatmeal sunflower bread. I've made this bread before, but I played with the recipe a bit by decreasing the sunflower seeds and adding in some flaxseed ... I also used my brotform basket for the round loaf, hence the cute spiral design on the top of the loaf. I plan to freeze one loaf for our Christmas breakfast. The others will be gobbled up for morning toast over the next few days ... with butter ... and jam. Man cannot live by bread alone ... right?

What's smelling good in your kitchens this week?

05 December 2011

Christmas ... a little at a time ...

When the kids were growing up, my mother-in-law gave me this Advent calendar. I would bring it out at the beginning of each December. I wrote little paper tags and put them in the pockets and we'd try to do whatever the tag said on that particular December day ... little things like 'run outside and make a snow angel', or 'read the Christmas story', 'draw a Christmas picture for Grammy and Pop-pop', 'watch a Christmas movie tonight', 'wrap one present', 'help Mom bake some Christmas cookies'  ...

04 December 2011

Food Bloggers Unplugged ... the persona behind the blog


Dom of Belleau Kitchen is one of the first bloggers that I began following when I first started The Spice Garden … we’ve connected on-line and via email off and on over the past couple years … enough that I have begun considering him to be a more than an mere acquaintance … a friend, a cohort, and a funny and fun addition to my on-line life!
What a guy … he recently gave me the ultimate foodie compliment in telling his blogging world that he’d love to dine at my humble little dining room table … heart a flutter and blushes … thanks dearie! Jump a plane and come visit anytime … just give me time to hit the market for the goods … and bring a good couple bottles of wine to sip with dinner!

Anyway, atop this seriously wonderful compliment came a request to tell a bit about me and The Spice Garden … a blogger’s challenge to let the shade up on just who I am and where my foodie sensibilities lie. The idea behind Food Bloggers Unplugged is to answer a series of questions and then pass the challenge to five other bloggers that have piqued your curiosity … there are certainly many that I’ve discovered. Perhaps that’s the hardest part of this Unplugged challenge … choosing the five with which I’m most intrigued. Anyway … here goes, Dom!

1. What or who inspired you to start a blog?

Two years ago, my daughter, Sara sent me an email telling me that I must start a food blog … “ for realz”, as she punctuated the statement. I had written a Note about soup on my Facebook page and when she read it, she knew I’d love the format of a food blog. She also knew that I needed a creative outlet to channel my energies as I made the transition from the work-a-day world to retirement. She is a wise child, what can I say?

2. Who is your foodie inspiration?

What a loaded question! My family and friends are foodie inspiration because I love to feed them … BUT my brothers, Rich and Jim are my foodie inspirations because they are both such amazing cooks! Jim has an abandon in the kitchen that is truly impassioned and Rich has the meticulous technique of a classically trained chef. They both can put on an incredible spread … and I will lovingly gobble away!

02 December 2011

Great Finds!

You know how sometimes, when you least expect it, something or someone comes along and you grab on and find out that it/they are the best thing since ... ??????

I am feeling this way today. I'm agog ... in a pleasant way. Last evening I had a little gathering of friends ... talk about great finds! These are wonderful friends! Cathy, Leah, Harold ... stalwart pals, fun friends, fellow food fiends. I was going to make them venison, as Cathy has never had it, but for whatever reason, I got it into my head to make chicken. Venison has been an almost every other day affair around the grey cottage of late. So, I made my excuses and did a complete about face ... chicken tikka masala, rice with caraway, and a green bean/summer squash/sweet onion medley with lemon juice and Indian spices.

I am not blogging those dishes ... you know how dinner parties are. Your friends walk in the door, the volume increases exponentially, drinks are poured, folks want the latest gab, then they want to help out in the kitchen, one thing leads to another, and before you know it you're knoshing and pouring a second bottle of wine. Yup ... that's the way it spins at my house! So ... knowing that I was making this really good Indian meal, I opted to show you more great finds in the way of starters and dessert.

Check this out! I should be so creative as to have cooked this idea up on my own! I didn't, though! You must go see Alejandra @  Always Order Dessert. Talk about a great find! I had so much fun looking at her blog yesterday afternoon when I was looking for pointers on making molded mousse desserts. The minute I saw this cheese ball starter, I knew I had to make it ... and I actually had the ingredients! Kismet, right? Well, I'll tell ya ... after we got over the cute factor, we all knoshed the apple down to 'core shape'. It's tasty, as well as cute! Perfect too, because it's gluten-free and Harold's my GF guy.

I used a smoked Gouda and New York Sharp Cheddar blend in the cheese ball and mixed a paprika coating of half sweet paprika and half smoked paprika ... perfect with the Gouda! Okay! I'll stop raving. I want to move onto dessert anyway ... check it out.

This is a double whammy dessert. I wasn't sure if folks would want heavy or light, so I made both and cut the cherry oatmeal bars really narrow ... the pumpkin mousse is pretty fluffy light. I wished the design of the little containers that I found at the newest local consignment store was more defined in the mousse surface, but you can hide a lot of mistakes with a sprig of holiday holly ... what can I say? These little half-cup molds are so sweet, though. Another great find!

SB made a big pot of tea at the end of the evening and we knoshed Ina Garten's pumpkin mousse and the cherry oatmeal bars that I adapted from the back of a bag of Bob's Red Mill oat flour ... more gluten-free cooking. It was neat to see Harold's face register 'I can have whatever I want!' pleasure throughout the whole evening. So much fun to give someone a care-free dining experience!

28 November 2011

Venison Hand Pies with Kale, Apples, and Onions


Today's lunch in the grey cottage was a delicious and lazy affair...  grab a hand pie and knosh while puttering away at this and that.

Okay, if you didn't know the title on this post, wouldn't you think this was just another fruit turnover pastry ? Silly you! This is how things started today.

25 November 2011

Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and White Truffle Oil

Paula Wolfert and I go back a ways ... I first heard of her when I began using clay-pot techniques and pottery to make fish stews and tagine recipes a couple years back. I bought her cookbook Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking and never looked back. She has good solid instincts on writing recipes so that they are clear and sequenced nicely. I have read somewhere that that is one of her claims to fame ... that, and her encyclopedic knowledge of the rustic cuisines of the Mediterranean cultures.

Two Words ...

Fresh Cranberries ...

One Pie ...

Brined Bird ...

Prepped Veg ...

Spicy Starters ...

Cold Drinks ...

Harvest Nuts ...

More Nuts ...

Making Gravy ...

Setting Table ...

Remembering Want ...

Carving Tom ...

Here Comes ...

Mashed Potatoes ...

Brussels Sprouts ...

Roasted Vegetables ...

Dressed Plate ...

Tearin' In ...

Happy Thanksgiving!

22 November 2011

There's No Place Like Home ... and Nothing Like Kasha Varnishkes!

I'm back! For someone who usually posts every couple days, being away from The Spice Garden has felt like going through withdrawal! I do love cooking and blogging, but life has just been crazy of late!

13 November 2011

Roasted Pepper Soup with Garlic Toasts


This month Dom has challenged us to make a vegetarian soup that can be shared on the Belleau Kitchen's Random Recipe challenge and on Tinned Tomatoes'  No Croutons Required monthly challenge. Dom and Jacqui have chosen the perfect challenge for those of us entering 'soup season!

This is an easy challenge, if you have a copy of The Soup Bible. I picked this cookbook up this summer when our local Borders was having its closing sales ... sniff, sniff. I hated to see a bookstore closing, but was eager for the deals ... don't judge me. I felt bad picking through the cook book aisle, kind of like a gleaner at the end of harvest time. Many other images come to mind too , but we'll leave it at that.